Unleash Your Inner Healthcare Data

A free bi-weekly guide to understanding, presenting and using healthcare data, information and evidence.

Katherine S. Rowell @ Associates

Katherine S. Rowell @ Associates







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May 17, 2013           Volume 4 Issue 8     




Cruising around on a boat afforded me with a new view of the land -- and got me thinking about Gantt Charts (sad but true).  Read today's newsletter to learn how I made the leap from a boat to this type of chart.


Our workshops are filling up so don't delay any longer! 

  • Wellesley, MA -- June 20 & 21 
  •  Austin, TX -- September 18 & 19
  • Ann Arbor, MI -- September 25 & 26
Check out all the details by clicking here.  



 Kathy Signature 

Katherine S. Rowell

Principal | Founder


Visualize a New Approach


Hey, guess what I did last week? My husband and I finally realized our dream of owning a boat. We even named it Visualize -- for all the reasons you might imagine. Yes, I can hear you all chuckling from way over here on deck, reminding me that the two happiest days of a boat owner's life are the day she buys the boat and the day she sells it (and I'm laughing with you).


Here is what I love most about having Visualize: I get to see lots of familiar things in new ways. I have been acting like a teenager who just got a learner's permit, and thinks the family station wagon is a shiny, sexy race-car. (Who needs a yacht, anyway?) I'm having so much fun slowly (very slowly) motoring around Boston Harbor, seeing my city from a fresh perspective: the JFK Library lit up at night, the islands where forts were built to protect the coast, the Boston Harbor Light...It's so cool and inspiring to consider it all from a different point of view. (Getting the boat back into the slip on a windy day is not so much fun -- but we are working on visualizing the right way to do that as well.)


Kathy on board Visualize  


Being out on Visualize also made me realize that something I use and work on all the time can benefit from a "fresh tack" (a nautical expression meaning "a new direction") -- Gantt Charts (you knew it was coming, right?), for instance. Most of us are familiar with these charts, which are most often used for tracking schedules and displaying information about the tasks involved in, or the phases of, a project.


The following is a simple Gantt Chart created in Excel to help people build and assign a timeline and tasks associated with researching, creating, and presenting a report. (Instructions for creating this chart are on my blog.)


Project Gantt Chart  


The X axis displays tasks; the Y axis shows when work on them must begin and end to ensure that the report is ready in time for the final deadline, a board meeting.


Now let's get creative about using a chart like this to display a different type of information -- utilization of CT scanners. Instead of comparing different tasks, we want to compare how multiple iterations of the same resource (the scanners) are being used, in order to identify opportunities to configure them differently and improve efficiency.


CT Scanners Gantt Chart  


Instead of listing tasks, we listed every scanner along the Y-axis. Just as on the first chart, above, we display time on the X-axis; in this case, standard appointments for scans, at thirty-minute intervals. Next we encode the actual length of time that each scan required, and display that information as bars in the chart. This arrangement makes it very clear that CT Scanner 2 had unused time from a little after 11:00 am until noon, and that all scanners were idle after 4:00 PM, even though there were still appointment times available. By displaying CT use this way, we can quickly and easily clarify what we don't know about this schedule, and ask specific, useful questions to guide our investigation, uncover gaps and inefficiencies, and craft improvements. (Instructions for creating this chart are also on my blog.)


A final example uses Tableau to display operating room use.


  OR Usage Gantt Chart


In this example, we have listed each operating room and the days of the week it was fully staffed on the X axis, and regular time intervals on the Y axis. We also added three vertical lines to show operating room opening (7:30 AM) and closing (3:30 and 5:00 PM) times. The addition of these vertical lines makes it easy to see where procedures started on time, started late, and|or ran late, and helps us to identify cases that may need further inquiry. (We also encoded actual surgical case minutes in each bar.) The white space (unused time, where an OR was idle) used here packs a visual punch, crying out as no narrative or table could for further investigation. Displaying the data this way reveals -- clearly, rapidly, definitively -- the central truth: while a lot of surgery is getting done, OR time is still being wasted, as individual theaters are not being used to capacity.


My experience putting Gantt charts to work for new, different types of data display shows how easy it is to use familiar tools in fresh, innovative ways. What about you? What data visualization tools have served you in unusual ways? Send me a note and let me know-maybe we'll feature you in our next newsletter! Or what about a contest, with first prize a leisurely harbor cruise on the new boat? Just Visualize that!


Upcoming Workshops   


 2013 Public Workshops

Workshop I -- Communicating Healthcare Data with Tables and Graphs


Thursday, June 20, 2013 | Wellesley, MA


Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | Austin, TX


Wednesday, September 25, 2013 | Ann Arbor, MI


Workshop II -- Dashboard Design for Communicating Healthcare Data


Friday, June 21, 2013 | Wellesley, MA  


Thursday, September 19, 2013 | Austin, TX


Thursday, September 26, 2013 | Ann Arbor, MI


Click here for additional details and to register for upcoming workshops.  

Want to send a group?  Drop us a note and we will contact you about our group discounts.

Interested in a private, customized workshop for your group?  Contact us and we will be in touch to discuss your needs.


And remember that as a an added benefit for nurse participants each workshop is approved to award six (6) contact hours by the Massachusetts Association of Registered Nurses, Inc. (MARN), an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation.

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